Both federal and state laws govern the sale of prescription drugs. When someone sells them illegally, they usually commit a felony, and the consequences can be harsh.
In the U.S., prescription drugs can be legally provided by pharmacists, doctors, and medical professionals who are licensed to prescribe and/or dispense them. Anyone without such a license can't legally give or sell prescription medications to others.
Indeed, federal and state laws make it a crime to sell or give away prescribed controlled substances without a license. It's also a crime to write a prescription without a license.
And even licensed healthcare professionals can't knowingly sell or give prescription drugs to someone who doesn't have a legitimate need or a valid prescription for them.
(U.S.C. 822(b); see 21 U.S.C. 823(f); U.S.C. 841; 21 C.F.R. 1306.04(a).)
Selling doesn't necessarily mean a cash transaction; it can include giving or exchanging prescription drugs, as well as an offer or agreement to sell or exchange them.
A prescription drug can be sold illegally in a number of ways. For instance, a person who has a valid prescription can be convicted of illegally selling drugs if he sells or gives his drugs to someone else.
And a doctor or health care provider can be guilty of a crime by writing prescriptions that aren't medically necessary (which includes prescriptions for more doses than the person actually needs). Some physicians have done this by writing multiple prescriptions for one person using several different (and often fake) names. Similarly, a pharmacist who knowingly fills an invalid prescription can also be charged with an illegal sale.
Defendants can be convicted of selling prescription drugs illegally if a prosecutor proves simply that a defendant knowingly sold or simply gave (or agreed to sell or give) a prescription drug to someone who lacked a valid prescription.
With defendants who are health care professionals or pharmacists, a prosecutor would have to prove that the defendant intentionally wrote or filled bogus prescriptions.
When charged with illegally selling prescription drugs, defendants can sometimes argue that they had no intent to sell the drugs, but instead possessed them for personal use.
In the case of defendants who are health care professionals or pharmacists, they might argue that they had medically valid reasons for writing prescriptions, or had no reason to suspect that they were filling an invalid prescription.
The penalties for the illegal sale of prescription drugs vary, depending on where the case was prosecuted. (Federal charges carry the same penalties no matter where in the country the prosecution occurs, but each state has its own sentencing provisions).
A conviction for an illegal sale of prescription drugs can carry rather heavy penalties. Although possessing an illegal drug is often a misdemeanor, selling them is commonly a felony. Here are a few of the penalties that can result from a conviction for selling prescription drugs:
For more information regarding the sale of drugs, check out the links below.
Being charged with illegally selling prescription drugs is serious. Anyone charged with or being investigated for this offense should speak with a local, experienced criminal defense attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer should be able to assess your case for possible defenses and weaknesses, and advise you whether to go to trial or try to get a plea deal. When the defendant is a licensed healthcare professional, an experienced attorney might be able to negotiate a deal that either allows the person to keep their license or lets them give up their license to avoid time behind bars.